EPW Business Meeting: Opening Statement of Ranking Member Carper

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) held a business meeting to consider a number of items: Robert Wallace to be assistant secretary for the Department of the Interior; William B. Kilbride to be a member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority; S. 1345, A bill to amend and reauthorize the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation Act; S. 1833, Restore the Harmony Way Bridge Act; S. 1014, Route 66 Centennial Commission Act; substitute amendment to S. 349, Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act; a substitute amendment to S. 1507, PFAS Release Disclosure Act; S. 1689, A bill to transfer certain funds from the clean water revolving fund of a State to the drinking water revolving fund of the State; and 38 General Services Administration resolutions. Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Today, our committee is set to consider a number of General Services Administration (GSA) resolutions, five pieces of legislation, two nominees and legislation to address widespread contamination of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS.

“I will start by saying that the minority is willing to move this large number of GSA resolutions today only because of GSA’s recent efforts to begin providing documents that the minority requested as far back as the beginning of last Congress.  I thank the Chairman and his majority staff for their help in motivating GSA to be more responsive to the minority’s document requests.

“Three of the four pieces of legislation on today’s agenda are related to our nation’s transportation system. The fourth piece of legislation is a bill introduced by Senator Heinrich that would reauthorize the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation Act. This bill was passed in the Senate last year, and this year, I am confident we can get it across the finish line.

“The fifth bill is Senator Booker’s proposal to allow states a one year opportunity to use excess Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund dollars to address lead contamination in drinking water. This bill would provide immediate relief to a number of states facing extreme cases of lead contamination, and I’m proud to support Senator Booker’s proposal.

“I believe the two nominees our committee is considering today, Rob Wallace and William Kilbride, are both qualified and ready to lead at their respective agencies. Mr. Wallace has pledged to uphold science and bolster the expertise of the Interior Department career staff he would oversee. I believe he is up to the challenge of providing badly needed leadership within the Department of the Interior. I look forward to welcoming Mr. Wallace to Delaware later this year so that he can see and learn firsthand more about our national park and wildlife refuges that make the First State home to so many people and species.

“Next, let me take a minute or two to focus on the substitute for Senator Capito’s bill which is a package of PFAS contamination legislation. Over the last few months, I’ve come to learn that addressing PFAS contamination is a particularly complicated and multi-faceted problem faced by an ever growing number of communities across America.

“During our hearing last month, I said that our committee would continue to work hard with stakeholders to forge a consensus approach to address head-on the PFAS problem. For the most part, that is what we have done. I especially want to thank Chairman Barrasso and the majority staff, as well as our minority staff, for their excellent and constructive work in crafting the legislative package that is before us today.

“This substitute requires EPA to set a drinking water standard for PFOS and PFOA in two years, while also establishing on-ramps so the agency can create monitoring requirements and drinking water standards for other PFAS chemicals in the future. The substitute also immediately adds about 200 PFAS chemicals to the Toxic Release Inventory. By doing so, we can better understand the research, cleanup and prevention that are needed at every level of government. And, furthermore, the substitute includes additional bipartisan measures to require research, monitoring technologies, funding for drinking water cleanup and guidance on how to properly dispose of PFAS.

“Notably, though, there is one critical piece of PFAS legislation missing from this package—the bill I introduced with Senator Capito and 30 cosponsors earlier this spring that designates PFAS as hazardous substances under the Superfund law. This designation would require DOD to help clean up the PFAS contamination it has caused, and it would unlock EPA resources to clean up sites when no one else can do so.

“With that said, I still remain hopeful this last PFAS bill ultimately will be included in NDAA, and I hope to have the Chairman agree to join me, along with other members of this committee, as we strive to reach that goal, given the extensive conversations happening between our staffs, relevant agencies, stakeholders and constituents who are affected by PFAS contamination.

“Let me close with this. When we held our first business meeting of this Congress, back in February, I shared my hope that our committee would work to reach consensus on important issues—consensus that would help us strengthen protections for our environment and public health, while enhancing economic growth.

“Nearly a half-year later, the legislative work that we’ve achieved thus far on PFAS gives me renewed cause for hope that this committee can—and will—continue to make further progress on the issues that Americans care about most.

“With that, I look forward to a quick and productive business meeting. Thank you.”